Category Archives: Must Love Dogs

Sammy’s Time With Us

There are dog lovers and there are crazy dog people. More and more I feel like we fall into the second category heavy on the crazy. When most people bring a dog into there lives it is with the thought of how how great it would be to incorporate this dog into our lives and share our life with this dog. Sometimes though that is just not how things pan out and we have had several dogs come into our lives where that is the case and Sammy was one of them.

I don’t think most people being a dog into their lives thinking this dog is going to upend every aspect of my life and cause me to change everything I do from the most mundane to the more complex aspects of life. But we seem to do that time and again. Its not that we like change and struggle and challenge, its that we love dogs and we cannot bear to let a dogs life fall to the whims of chance if there is something we can do to help that dog out.

Sammy came into our lives under some unusual circumstances. Sammy’s parents had medical circumstances that prevented them from being able to care for Sammy despite their desire to do so. Sammy ended up in the care of his veterinarian. Coincidentally that is where my wife worked. Also Coincidentally my wife had previously worked on dog training with Sammy and his owners when he was younger.

While Sammy was at in the care of the veterinarians my wife and I would go down and take him for walks because we lived close by. When it became clear that Sammy would not be able to go back home we began to take steps to find Sammy a new home. We contacted rescues and other organizations in an effort to find him a new home. We were in discussions with a rescue in Ohio to take him there and a local rescue that thought they might be able to place him. On the day that we were to head to Ohio to start Sammy on his journey to find a new home we heard from the local rescue that they would work to get him adopted if we would be willing to foster him. What to do?

Of course we agreed to foster him. We knew that because of Sammy’s history and some of his behavior issues he could be a difficult placement but we thought that having Sammy stay at our house in the interim was the best solution. He already knew my wife and had been getting to know me. Why make him go through yet another transition.

We found out relatively quickly despite the initial appearance of getting along that Sammy did not like our dog Mojo. So this was going to require constant supervision and management and separation of those two dogs. Sammy also had some issues with strangers coming into his territory. He loved us and loved people in general but he did not like it if people he did not know showed up in his space. We also learned that Sammy had some pica issues. He would eat lots of inedible objects. We had to start learning how to manage these issues. This required a big change in our life routine for both us and our other dogs.

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After agreeing to foster Sammy we started to think about things differently. Sammy clearly loved my wife. He seemed to remember her from his training days. It was just completely evident from the way he followed her around and responded to her the he adored her. We had six dogs at the time and had recently lost our 10 year old Bernese Mountain Dog. We had been doing what we considered to be the “responsible” thing and had not been planning to add another dog to our mix any time soon. But just seeing how Sammy and my wife were the perfect pair in so many ways I couldn’t not suggest to my wife that maybe we should just keep Sammy. Surprisingly my wife hesitated. She was trying to be “responsible”. After all keeping Sammy was not going to be an easy feat.

After Sammy had an altercation with one of our dogs we thought he got along well with we started to think maybe him staying with us was not the best plan and maybe we needed to find him a different home that better suited his needs. We had support from other organizations trying to find suitable matches for him. We spoke to multiple people who were expressed interest in opening their homes to Sammy, but none of them quite worked out.

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The experience of living with a dog that you are actively trying to find a new home and interviewing potential adopters was a new experience for me and quite stressful at times. Just hoping and praying that something would work out in Sammy’s favor created this inner turmoil.

After lots of discussion we decided our house was the best place for Sammy to be. And this decision meant a lot of different things for our life. We had to completely dedicate ourselves to managing the situation.

Having Sammy meant spreading ourselves around a lot more so that we could spend time with each of our dogs now that even more of them could not all be in the same rooms together at the same time. It meant closing a door here before you could open another door there. It meant painting a window black so he couldn’t see his arch enemy Mojo. It meant never leaving anything lying around that he could eat. It meant careful interactions when we had visitors. It meant caution and vigilance when he was around the other dogs he seemed to get along with. It meant always worrying you would forget something and something bad would ensue. Sammy was a good dog but a very anxious dog. We loved him and tried to do as much as we could do for him.

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Despite the other issues Sammy had he was in many ways a perfect dog. He had great leash manners. He was the only dog we had that did not pull on a leash when he was walked. He was super affectionate. He loved to climb up on his humans and snuggle. He wanted nothing more than to be petted. We were even able to take him camping, although that did have its adventurous moments.

Sammy slept with us every night. He loved sleeping in bed and would roll over on his back. I think it was his favorite part of the day. A little over a week ago Sammy began to eat a little less each day. He also began to vomit periodically. But his behavior remained unchanged. He seemed to be the same energetic happy dog he had been. Then Thursday he didn’t eat any food which he never does. Then Thursday night he vomited multiple times.

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It was obvious at this point that Sammy needed to go to the vet. Friday we took him to the vet hoping for the best but fearing the worst.  X-rays revealed a mass that was expectes to be an obstruction. The decision was made to have surgery to remove the obstruction. Durring surgery it was discovered that what showed up on the X-ray was not a blockage but a large intestinal mass that was likely cancerous and was inoperable. Our vets are amazing and took the time to explain everything to us and answer our questions. We were even able to see exactly what we were dealing with.
We were able to go to the vets office and say our goodbyes to Sammy while he was still under anesthesia from surgery. We were able to be there with him when he passed on into the next realm. I don’t know if he knew we were there or could hear us talking to him and feel us touching him but i hope that he could.
Knowing full well how difficult Sammy could be at times and his penchant for eating things I had been quietly steeling myself for the day when this time would come. It did not make this particular outcome easier, but i think i was ready for it in a way. Not knowing what Friday would bring I said my goodbyes to Sammy Thursday night when he was still wagging his tail, snuggling me, and looking into my eyes.
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 Having a dog like Sammy requires a lot of commitment and at times sacrifice. All the little things you give up or change when you have a difficult dog. Sammy’s death was obviously sad and hurt but there is this other stream of thoughts that creep into your mind saying things like “know I can have my life back.” or “Things will be so much easier now.” The selfish feeling thoughts about how this animals death will make your life easier eat away at you a little bit. You feel like a terrible person. This is when it is great to have amazing friends to talk to that have also had experiences like this and assure you that these feelings are normal and that you are not a horrible person for thinking those thoughts. Another part of what makes this loss so hard is with all the changes we made to our life to accommodate Sammy as it starts to get back to “normal” everything you are now doing differently makes you think of him. So that loss stays fresh in your mind and your heart as you realize how much he changed your life.
We did not have Sammy in our lives for long but he was a true force to be reckoned with and we will miss him.

Kira The Gentle

Kira came to be part of our family in a funny way. I had been volunteering my time at the Chemung County SPCA to photograph the dogs and cats there that are available for adoption. I love just about all the dogs that I have worked with there. But when I photographed Kira there was just a connection. I went home and posted her photos online and I half-jokingly commented with the photos that someone better go adopt her before I do. We were not looking for a dog at the time and despite the connection I felt with her I was not seriously thinking about adopting her. At this time my wife, Debby, was working at the Chemung County SPCA and shortly after I photographed Kira she said she thought she really liked Kira and maybe we should adopt her. And that was all it took. I was fully on board and Kira went home with us.

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Kira at the Chemung County SPCA

Kira might have been the perfect adoption for our family. She was just the right dog for us. We have always had multiple dogs in our home and adding another dog to the mix can be complicated. Kira was the perfect fit. She got along fine with all our other dogs. She didn’t need to be crated. She didn’t cause any problems when left alone in the house. She might have even been too well behaved for us. We love to sit with our dogs all snuggled up on the couch and we had to teach Kira that it was OK to get on the furniture at our house. One thing I did learn quickly is that Kira was not a dog to let off leash. One day shortly after she came home I unhooked her from her leash thinking we’d just walk the few steps to the door and into the house. Wrong. She bolted across the yard and down the road. Luckily she was a big dog and I caught her pretty quickly. And that is how our lives together began.

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It’s really tough when you adopt an older dog. There is this ever present feeling of uncertainty. You never know what to expect. While nothing in life is certain, when you commit to an older dog you know that there is a god chance that their best days may be behind them and the life you experience with them might be short and limited. It is something that you try not to focus on but it is a consideration. We tried to make the best of things with Kira and for the most part she was healthy and loved to do all the things that any other dog would love to do and we tried to get her out there doing as much as possible.

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She enjoyed walks, and hikes, and going to events with us. She loved us and loved being with us. We tried to give her the best life we could and she ave us everything she had until her last day. It’s hard not to feel like it was unfair that we had such a short time to spend with her. She was such a loving and comforting dog. She didn’t want to do anything but sit with you. The only thing on Kira’s agenda was sit with my humans. Be with my humans.

Kira at Seneca Lake
Kira at Seneca Lake

It’s funny now thinking back on our time with her, that there aren’t many crazy stories to tell about her because she was just that kind of dog that didn’t require much. She didn’t do crazy things. She was just mellow and melted into the background of the home. She was the calm one. The one that waited her turn and when all the other dogs were done she would approach to get her turn with you and be petted and loved on. When you lose a dog like that you have lost something special. A dog that didn’t require any extra work. A dog that was just there for you and accepted whatever you had to give. I think that my favorite memory of her is after finishing my first half marathon Debby and Kira were waiting for me at the finish line. She was there to cheer me on and support me just like family does.


It’s odd how much an impact it is or a void that can be left by the quiet and calm presence of one dog when they are no longer there. There isn’t this huge dog who quietly saunters down the all to my office and nudges my hand while I work so I will pet her and then lies down quietly on the floor while I work. I won’t have that warm heart just a few feet away as I type or edit photos anymore. There is more room in my office now, but I would give anything to be crowded again and have to type one handed.


I spent the last week we had with Kira wanting to get some photographs of her. But as a photographer I have this need for the photos to be perfect. Even if they are just personal photos that I might be the only person to see them. I still want them to be nice. I want the photos to be as good as they can be and I want my dogs to look good in the photos. So I kept putting off taking photos until I had time to get out my cameras and lashes and take some nice indoor portraits of Kira so that I would have really nice photos to remember her by. Then one night I decided to lie on the floor with her and just snuggle her. It was then I decided I needed to just take photos now and capture the moments as they were. The real moments that we had together. Because we never knew how much more we would have. I am so glad I made that decision. I took photos of her with my cell phone two nights in a row and then she was gone. If I hadn’t taken those photos I would not had any images to remember her in her last days by. So don’t wait for it to be perfect. Don’t wait for the best possible circumstances. If you have an opportunity to create memories do it now while you have the chance. You never know if you will have the opportunity again.


Coming home from work to find that Kira had passed was not how we wanted it to go and it might have been one of the hardest things I’ve experienced. But, Thankfully we have amazing family and friends that when we shared the news of Kira’s passing were so supportive and loving. There really are no words to express how grateful I am to have all these people in my life. I don’t know how we would get through the times like this without them. So many people shared words of compassion with us and told us exactly the right things that any dog lover needs to hear in these tough times. We also have the most amazing vet who took the time to talk to us and share her thoughts and kind words with us. Knowing that she didn’t believe that Kira suffered meant so much to us.


In the end Kira died at home the way she lived. Without fanfare and without drawing attention to herself. She died peacefully and in a way that we didn’t have to make that most terrible decision that any dog owner has to make. In hindsight I believe Kira was hanging on those last few days for us. She still got up and followed me to my office even though it was obvious she was laboring. And that was when we knew it was time. But she had other plans. For the last few nights once we knew the time was close, before I went to bed I got down on the floor with her and whispered in her ear. I told her I loved her and if it was time for her to go tonight that it was OK and that she didn’t have to hang on for us. And that is what she did. Once we were gone for the day and she didn’t have to be with us anymore she could leave us for the last time. The hardest part is just not being able to be there in the last moments and say goodbye.


Woof and Wine Fest

For me there is not a whole lot better than an event with dogs. The only thing that can make that better is if it is an environment where I can take photographs of all the dogs. Last year we went to this event for rescue and shelter organizations at a local winery. It is so much fun to see all the shelter/rescue dogs out int he public getting attention.

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The event is not designed for photography so it takes some creativity to capture the nice images that these shelter dogs deserve. Shelter dogs are such amazing animals. They deserve to get the best I can offer them. So I really strive to capture great images of them. It makes me so sad that I didn’t get around to sharing these photos until now.

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I am sure that by now all these fine dogs have found warm loving forever homes. They were all at the event with great organizations that were taking great care of them. Getting to play with dogs and photograph them is pretty much a day in my own personal heaven. The only downside is when you meat adorable friendly dogs but you already have so many dogs at home that you can’t take one of these adorable shelter dogs home with you.

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That is one reason I try to photograph the dogs and share their photographs. I would love to take them all home but we have already done our fair share of rescuing and adopting dogs so there is no room with us despite what our hearts might want. So I need to share their photos and help them find great new homes. This is something I have collaborated in with our local shelter and the more I think about it the more I need to find a way to get back to the shelter and photograph more dogs and share their stories so they can find a way home. If you want to help support me in that mission you can support me on Patreon so that I can spend more time working with the shelter pets.

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If you are anything like me just seeing cute and friendly dogs out and about melts your heart and I just love the opportunity to capture nice images of dogs in general. But then there is a chance to help a shelter/rescue dog find a home it might not otherwise find I think my heart grows three sizes like the Grinch and I strive even harder to capture images that really capture the personality of these dogs and presents the best they have to offer so that potential adopters will get the best look at them that they can and maybe be persuaded in part by my photography to look into one of these dogs and maybe go meet them. And sometimes just one meeting with a shelter dogs is all it takes for them to steal your heart. Then off they go to a new home. I love the idea that I could be a part of making that happen in any small way. But it is really about the dedicated staff at the rescues and shelters. They make it happen.

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I really need to focus on this part of my photography more and post photos in a timely manner so that they can have the most impact. If nothing else I hope that my photos help to give shelter/rescue dogs a better reputation. They are too often portrayed as broken scared dogs. Anyone who has been loved by a shelter dog knows that in most cases this is the furthest thing from the truth and if one person sees my photos and decides to check out their local shelter and falls in love with any dog then I have played my small part.

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But also, cute puppies. I mean come on. How do you not love that. Look at that face. That tiny nose and those cute eyes. That is all it takes to get my attention.

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After a long day at an event it is time for a puppy nap.

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Even the older dogs need their beauty sleep. So if you ever hear that there is a rescue event going on nearby do check it out. You might just meet your next best friend.

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Big Kira’s Day

Recently we received the news that everyone with a dog dreads hearing. Your dog has cancer. Our big lovable dog Kira recently started exhibiting some signs of difficulty breathing. It was clear she needed to go to the vet. You hope for the best, while fearing the worst. Maybe it’s just an infection to be cleared up by antibiotics. You refuse to speak the name you fear most as to avoid manifesting it into existence by shear utterance of the words. But once the evidence is before you, you can no longer deny it. Cancer it is


We were devastated by the news. We cried. We said how unfair it was. Kira is such a good dog. A huge loving, snuggling, 115 lb lap dog who is faithful and kind. She doesn’t deserve this. She deserves to live out her day into old age. No one deserves cancer. Not a single living being. But it is a fact of life and we must make our peace with it. So that is what we will try our best to do.


Kira has started on medication to help her breath better and it seems to be helping. She seems to show no external sign of the disease that ravages her inside. She will stand with us until she can stand no more. She is determined to be by our side, still following us from room to room, jumping up on the furniture to sit with us. If you didn’t know better you might not be able to tell she was sick.


We have decided that there is not much we can do for her especially at her age to try to fight the diseased directly. We will do our best to make the best of whatever time she has left with us. In a house full of seven dogs that can often seem too chaotic she is the one who is most often of to the side out of the way being a good dog. It’s hard not to think we haven’t done enough for her to this point. We have only had her for such a short time and it’s never enough.


We will now take every opportunity we can to make each day as good a day for Kira as we can. We will devote whatever time we can to her. When you have a whole crowd of dogs at your house it is hard to decide who gets to go along for what adventures when. But for the foreseeable future every adventure that is there to be had will be an adventure that Kira gets to go on.


On Sunday we decided to take Kira out to Fulkerson Winery for an event to support a local dog rescue that we have worked with. There was a dog walk through the vineyard and wine tasting at the winery. Kira had a great time on the walk. Just strolling along wither people. She did great meeting other dogs, which sometimes can be overly stimulating for her. She got to go see everyone from the rescue. She loved going into the winery and getting attention from everyone. I think she really had a great time.


After some time at Fulkerson we took Kira down to Watkins Glen and hung out at Clute Park. Kira got to explore the park and play in Seneca Lake. I think she really wanted to just go out for a swim. She walked out on the stone peninsula with us.  Then we all sat and ate lunch and Kira shared a pizza with us. This was her first trip to this park so I think it as nice for her to get to experience something totally new even at this stage in her life.


She was a bit tired after the adventure, but I think it is better to get her out and about enjoying life while she can even if she is tired and needs a little time to recover after words. That is how you make the most of the moments you have left together in my book.




Babysitting Foster Puppies

When your wife has a huge heart you end up babysitting someone’s five bottle feeding foster puppies so that they can go to a wedding.

So I took advantage of an opportunity to get some adorable photographs. It is hard to take a photo of these tiny puppies that isn’t cute. Adorable subjects make my job easy.